Homicides, certain; accessories after the fact. (HB976)

Introduced By

Del. Ben Cline (R-Amherst) with support from co-patron Del. Tony Wilt (R-Harrisonburg)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Accessories after the fact to certain homicides. Provides that an accessory after the fact to a homicide offense that is punishable by death or as a Class 2 felony is guilty of a Class 6 felony. Currently, accessories after the fact to any felony are guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Read the Bill »


Bill Has Passed


01/08/2014Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/08/14 14101996D
01/08/2014Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
01/09/2014Impact statement from VCSC (HB976)
01/30/2014Assigned Courts sub: Criminal Law
01/31/2014Subcommittee recommends reporting (10-Y 0-N)
01/31/2014Subcommittee recommends referring to Committee on Appropriations
02/03/2014Reported from Courts of Justice (22-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
02/03/2014Referred to Committee on Appropriations
02/05/2014Reported from Appropriations (21-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
02/07/2014Read first time
02/10/2014Read second time and engrossed
02/11/2014Read third time and passed House (96-Y 2-N)
02/11/2014VOTE: PASSAGE (96-Y 2-N) (see vote tally)
02/12/2014Constitutional reading dispensed
02/12/2014Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
02/14/2014Impact statement from DPB (HB976)
02/19/2014Reported from Courts of Justice (15-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
02/19/2014Rereferred to Finance
02/25/2014Reported from Finance (17-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
02/26/2014Constitutional reading dispensed (38-Y 0-N)
02/26/2014Read third time
02/26/2014Passed Senate (39-Y 0-N)
03/03/2014Bill text as passed House and Senate (HB976ER)
03/03/2014Signed by Speaker
03/06/2014Signed by President
03/31/2014Impact statement from VCSC (HB976ER)
04/06/2014G Approved by Governor-Chapter 668 (effective 7/1/14)
04/06/2014G Acts of Assembly Chapter text (CHAP0668)


This bill was discussed on the floor of the General Assembly. Below is all of the video that we have of that discussion, 1 clip in all, totaling 52 seconds.


Bobbie kent writes:

Ben's Law needs to be passed. The laws need to be stricter not only for accountability's sake, but for a deterrent as well. The consequences need to be harsher and understood that their guilt is just as serious. How many times before an accessory becomes the first degree? No family should feel that justice has abandoned them. Nothing can replace their loss. But a sense of closure can be gained if justice is served!

Amy Wilson writes:

I admire the courage of Ben's family, this is important legislature that needs to be heard and written into law.

Tiffany Shifflett writes:

This bill should most deff be passed.

joseph bailey writes:

I was friends with ben and I don't want to see the people out on the streets just so tbey can kill again I agree for the bill to be passed FOR BEN EVERYONE.

Pam Knight writes:

Ben's law needs to pass. No family should have to endure what Ben's family did, but to have one person get off with little time after being an accessory is a slap in the face. Make Ben's death count for something. PLEASE PASS THE LAW!!

Ruth McGuire writes:

WOW, I didn't expect that large of a jump from Class 1 misdemeanor to Class 6 felony. IF that's what it takes to see that accessories after the fact to murder get punishment fitting the crime then so be it. In Ben's case the accessory after the fact not only aided the murderer but held Ben down at the time of his murder. I'm just sorry that this bill will not punish the accessory after the fact for Ben but I am hopeful that it will curtail these types of crimes in the future.

It is time for this and many other VA laws to be upgraded to better benefit the citizens of the Commonwealth and not so much the criminals. There are a lot of misdemeanor crimes that need to have harsher punishment as a deterrent because many misdemeanor criminals are repeat offenders.

Taylor Bowers writes:

Bens Law should be passed, justice has not fully been served yet and as lawmakers you should understand what is right and wrong. The whole community is at a loss over Ben, he was an amazing person inside and out. Bens family and friends are the ones in loss and you're letting a man off with a slap on the hand basically. Stricter laws need to be put into place. Please pass Bens law.

Diane Costa writes:

Ben's Law needs to be passed,as a deterrent to "misdemeanor crimes" and for justice for being an accessory to murder! Outrageous that it took Ben's innocent, beautiful life to,
hopefully, change this law!

MaryKate Sullivan writes:

Ben's Law needs to be passed! This case not only impacted Ben's friends and family, but the entire community. To think an accomplice in murder serves less than a year in jail is absurd and wrong. That is not a punishment, that's a simple warning, slap on the wrist. Ben's life and his loss is worth more than that. Both boys participated in this horrific act with NO remorse! This law would provide suitable punishment for not just the murderer but his accomplice, this NEEDS to be passed to ensure justice is served for any future cases.

Detra Cash writes:

Ben's Law needs to be passed. No family should have to go through what Ben's family did. Pass Ben's Law for All family's!

Tammy Carty writes:

Ben's law must be passed. No family should have to go through this and the guilty who do put families through this need a hefty sentence for commenting such horrible acts.

Vicki Soles writes:

There should be absolutely no hesitation in the passing of BEN'S LAW. As another mother who lost a child, there is no greater SENTENCE than enduring the unspeakable grief that comes with losing your baby. To lose that child and then have the additional anguish and burden of seeking justice for your child goes beyond the pale. Further, justice did not happen in the murder of Ben Graessle, for the person who started a fight with Ben for no reason whatsoever, led to another person firing a gun at point blank range three times at Ben, taking his life. The instigator of the entire series of events that took place that night then hid the killer and his weapon in his mother's home. I sat in the court room for both trials and saw faces of two young men who showed no remorse, but in fact, seemed rather smug that sentencing was so light. The parents, family members, friends, and all who knew and loved Ben, had to stand by and witness no real justice in possibly giving them modicum of peace in their shattered lives. The instigator spent ONE YEAR in the county jail. He did not see prison. Ben's parents sentence is for the REST OF THEIR LIVES!!!! PASS BEN'S LAW.......please!

Charity Craig writes:

this bill needs to get passed to help other family and friends grieve and know that everything will be okay and someone won't just get a slap on the wrist!

Editor’s Pick
Deborah Songer writes:

I am the mother of the victim, Ben Graessle, that experienced the pain of the injustice of the way the current law is written. No loved ones of a victim brutally murdered should ever have the anguish of having to hear the accomplice only getting one year in a county jail. Of course as Ben's Mom, her only child who's blood spilled on the steps where he lived repeatedly shown on TV, would want an even harsher sentence.
Since misdemeanors get one day credit for every day served, it actually is only 6 months they serve. My 19 year old son's cold blooded murder was December 23, 2012. Ben's birthday is six months later on June 24th.
All 3 charges the accomplice pled guilty of, had misdemeanor charges. Every Christmas will be the anniversary of Ben's murder outside his apt. building across from his college. He would have been starting his 3rd year of college. He had dreams, ambition, worked hard, never met a stranger, wanted marriage and lots of kids. He was handsome, funny, so kind hearted. He always made me proud to be his Mom. The nightmare of the past year of how this bright light on earth was shut out by an evil act, was made worse by the fact that justice was not to be anywhere close to being served. Please, because of the circumstances of Ben's case, please pass this Bill.

marty taylor writes:

Please pass this law.

Dana Baker writes:

Ben's Law needs to be passed! No one should be able to walk away after serving little or no time for accessory to murder!!! Where is the justice for the Ben and Ben's Family and Friends?????

Jenna Llewellyn writes:

Please pass this law!!

Serena Overman writes:

To the honorable Courts of Justice Committee,

I did not know Ben or his family, friends, teachers, classmates, future wife and children, future neighbors, possible future employees or employer personally... So, I am not asking for "Ben's law" to be passed because I knew him first hand! I am asking because there is no justice in the present law!!! "Where there is injustice, there is no justice."

These people (cold blooded killers and their accomplices and accessories after the fact) with no regard for human life, need to know that this type of behavior will not be tolerated! "You (accessory, after the fact of taking a human life) will not slide by with a slap on the wrist!" "You (accessory, after the fact of taking a human life) will not spend an insignificant 6 months in a city jail for having anything remotely to do with murdering a human being!" I think it is a slap in the face, inhumane and a shame for anyone to have to go through what Ben's family and loved one's ( or any future families or loved one's of "victims' of murder will go,)have gone through and will continue to go through!
If you do not change this law, you will be giving others life sentences that lose loved one's! Ben's loved one's have been given a life sentence! Ben's life is gone! Is 6 months the equivalent to the value of a human life? A son? A neighbor? A friend? A student? If your Son or brother or mother were brutally murdered, would six months suffice for you?
On another note... If a person has the mentality of that of a murderer or an accomplice (after the fact), do you honestly think a measly sentence of 6 months in a city jail would deter them away from participating or covering up that persons life ending?
First of all, let's correct something that should have never been taken so lightly from the beginning!!!!
As you pass this law, you will be sending a message to these savages!!!! It is not okay to murder! It is not okay to be a part of a murder whether it be during or after!!! You will not get a slap on the wrist! You will suffer and it will have an effect on the rest of your life and your loved one's!!!!!
Having said that, Ben no longer has a life! Ben's parents no longer have their son... Ben's friends no longer have their friend Ben...
Make Ben's life, that counted while he was here to so many people, continue to count by passing "Ben's Law"!

I am a loving Mom of two (identical twin)son's and a daughter and for that reason alone, as a Mother, I respectfully ask you to pass Ben's Law. Thank you.

Pat A Stephens writes:

Please pass Ben's law

Craig Steward writes:

Could not have said it better than Serena Overman and the above comments. Please pass "Ben's Law"! It is common sense that the law needs to be updated! A no brainer... Justice! Be a part of it and pass Ben's law! thanks

Crystal Rodgers writes:

Please make the necessary changes, as they are long overdue. Thanks in advance!

Audra Larsen Williams writes:

I met Ben when he was two...my son was 3. All throughout his life he has always had a magnetic smile that I will never forget. His outlook on life as a young adult was always to succeed, be the best he could be, give it his all no matter what challenges came across his path. When I first got the call that he was murdered I thought I was having a nightmare! I as well as the rest of family, friends and community were devastated that a wonderful young man had his life taken so suddenly and violently...This law is so important to be passed for the justice of Ben as well as many family members in the past and in the future that have suffered this type of pain...the fact that a murderer shot and killed a vibrant young man with such a bright future ahead of him. The accomplice to first degree murder drove the murderer away from the murder scene, hid him in his house and hid the weapon in his own home and be able to go to sleep as if nothing ever happened is beyond belief...In my eyes the law that has been in place for accomplices to first degree murder after the fact is incomprehensible especially for a one year sentence considering the effects and devastation it brings to so many loved ones. I as many, will never understand why a bill like this would not be passed. It is the right thing to do for Ben to RIP and have the justice he deserves.